Developing confidence in your profession is something that happens through hands-on learning opportunities — just take the group of 84 b-school students who are flexing their personal finance skills while helping Richmonders file taxes this season.

Faculty in the business school have been partnering with UR Downtown — a satellite building and programming hub in the heart of the city — to connect coursework for accounting and finance students with service-learning projects. Ray Slaughter’s Federal Tax I and Federal Tax II classes have been key volunteers to help prepare taxes and greet clients of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site, while students in Dr. Joyce van der Laan Smith’s Introduction to Financial Accounting class work as CASH Coaches with clients, helping assess their interest and need for financial literacy resources.

URD's VITA program, now in its sixth year, is a partnership between UR Downtown and the United Way’s MetroCASH coalition, which seeks to provide free tax prep services to individuals or families making less than $54,000 a year.

Since February 1, UR volunteers have filed more than 320 returns and connected clients with access to financial literacy resources. Each of the volunteers undergoes 12 hours of training and passes an IRS-regulated certification test.

"The students learn not only about the services available to VITA clients but also how to work with people," van der Laan Smith said. "So, in addition to providing a service to the community, the students have the opportunity to interact with clients allowing them to develop the interpersonal skills that are an important part of much of our work in business."

The students’ work continues! UR Downtown’s VITA site is open the latest of the 13 locations in the greater Richmond area. Students will be at UR Downtown this weekend and next week through Tuesday as the tax season comes to a close.